Thursday, August 6, 2009

Don't close women's health clinic! Protesters tell University of Chicago

By Will Hackman
Chicago — The University of Chicago Medical Center, citing financial shortfalls, is closing its Women’s Health Center on 47th Street, which annually serves thousands of women on the South Side. Protests over the last two months forced UCMC to delay the official closing, but at present, rather than posting a new closing-date, the medical center is quietly dismantling the clinic piecemeal. The gynecology unit, for example, has been ‘transferred’ to the main medical center. By doing this, the administration hopes to ‘phase out’ the women’s clinic with as little public notice as possible.

UCMC has simultaneously opened a new clinic in the North Side Gold Coast neighborhood, the wealthiest community in Chicago. Whereas the medical center once claimed a commitment to serving its surrounding community, it is now brazenly withdrawing medical services from its impoverished neighbors in order to make them available to those with incomes and insurance-policies sufficient to cover the exorbitant cost of health-care.

At noon, Wednesday, August 5th, CHART (Coalition for Healthcare Access Responsibility and Transparency) bused members of the Hyde Park-Kenwood community to the Gold Coast clinic to protest the 47th Street closing. Among those in attendance was Mel Rothenberg, Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago, who faced a wait period of three months for an appointment at the UCMC cardiology department. He received an appointment at the Gold Coast clinic and was seen in half an hour.

However, many members of the Hyde Park-Kenwood community lack the insurance coverage, the time necessary for the commute, or quite simply the income necessary to make a visit to the North Side clinic possible.

Giudi Weiss, a spokesperson for Illinois Single Payer Coalition, discussed the connection between private, for-profit hospitals, private insurance companies, and the growing gap between the affluent few, who can afford health-care and insurance, and the vast working poor who cannot.

Finally, Richard del Rio, representative for Graduate Students United, an unaffiliated union currently organizing students and adjunct faculty at University of Chicago, asked those present “to join us in condemning the landlords and the health barons,” those hospital administrators who, as good agents of capital, discard the physicians’ oath to ‘first, do no harm’ and instead shutter medical clinics for the indigent.

The clinic representative declined to put protesters in contact with administration, instead referring us to a medical center spokesman. But Marcia Rothenberg, an activist for the Illinois Single-Payer Coalition, objected, “we’re not interested in talking with public relations people. We want to talk to the policy-makers.”

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